A club’s season can turn on a dime. An upset win or loss, a referee decision, an injury or a recruitment decision.
The Bulldogs did the sums and decided to allow two star players to leave the club. They made a smart decision in terms of their future planning but have handed two clubs a big leg up in the process.
Not for a second am I suggesting this is a bad thing. Both the Sharks and Tigers benefited from the Dogs’ cap mess but neither club has done anything wrong in the process.
They both had cap space set aside for this exact situation and have taken full advantage.
The Tigers have actually benefited twice from pre-season switches, but it may be the Sharks who ultimately benefit most.
There’s been a third side who has really benefited from a mid-season in, not through recruitment but a return from injury.
We look at the three sides who have benefited below:
The Sharks have scored big in the mid-season shuffle after signing current Kangaroos and former Blues front rower Aaron Woods.
Woods’ form at the Dogs did not justify his massive pay packet so you can hardly blame the Dogs for making the call but his form at the Sharks has arguably seen him pick up two Dally M points across the fortnight.
For the Sharks to present the side they have and then add a player of Woods abilities is brilliant management. Shane Flanagan’s ability to turn decent front rowers into premier props is becoming legendary.
Woods is no longer tasked with ball playing and worrying about multiple facets of his game. He’s now charged purely with making metres, finding his stomach and playing the ball quickly.
The Sharks in Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior have one of the top run on forward partnerships. Unfortunately there had bee a big drop off in the Sharks middle when either Prior or Fifita takes a breather.
Plenty of front rowers have been tested off the bench but the drop off has been easy to notice. If anything, the Sharks have been even better through the middle since Woods debuted for the club.
He is not the prop who will break the game open. That is Fifita. He is the prop who will make plenty of metres and create plenty of space with quick play the balls.
Simply put Woods is exactly what the Sharks were crying out for and he’s turned them from a sixth to eighth placed team into a side who can now genuinely challenge for the top four.
The Tigers have completely changed their spine with the additions of Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye.
Truthfully the Tigers never really replaced Farah during his time at the Bunnies. They’ve replaced Farah with Farah in reality.
Since his return the Tigers have looked a far more dangerous side after falling off the radar in recent weeks. He was huge against the Dragons and although I’m yet to see the announcement I would not be shocked to see him given man of the match honours.
In Mbye the Tigers have the speedy, ball playing fullback they have been searching for.
Unfortunately Tui Lolohea has not lived up to expectations and Corey Thompson is better on the wing.
Mbye has added an extra avenue of attack that they did not have during their form slump.
Truthfully it probably came too late for the Tigers finals hopes but they are a much better side in the run into the end of the season.
The Raiders have been completely transformed with the return of superstar Josh Hodgson. Although he did not come in through a mid-season switch, his return from injury must feel like a new recruitment.
Ricky Suart’s men are a different animal with the English maestro back in the side.
Since his return the Raiders have controlled the middle and have played a faster brand of footy.
It may be a coincidence that they’ve actually found ways to win late rather than falling away. It may sound in jest but I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all such is the respect and toughness Hodgson brings with him.
They’re the only club who can really upset the top eight as it stands and they’re far better placed with Hodgson at the helm.